The week before last, I polished off Bill Drummond‘s excellent and hilarious memoir 45. Drummond managed the Teardrop Explodes and Echo & The Bunnymen, was one-half of the KLF, and found subsequent infamy as a art provocateur, author, etc. His rabid discourse on music in myriad forms inspired me to make a pact: I will write at least 3 pages about popular music in my journal, every day. Miraculously, I’ve stuck with it thus far. Here are a few excerpts from my rants and observations of the past week.
Tuesday, March 24:
“Updated my iPod, purging pop I don’t care about (goodbye Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Chris Brown), and trying to offset all the retro crap and web finds with some contemporary full-lengths that speak to me: Grizzly Bear, Bricolage, Bat For Lashes, Lovers, Black Moth Super Rainbow. I used to worry about having on clean underwear when I left the house, lest I should be struck down by a SUV and be found by the paramedics wearing two-day old boxers — now I fret that they’ll find my iPod next to my unconscious body and I’ll be revealed as hopelessly out of touch with 85% of modern music.”
Wednesday, March 25:
“Here I am, on the sofa, with John Cale’s Fear playing at moderate volume, while simultaneously reading a book. Freakin’ John Cale has killed live animals on stage, and I’m treating his music as ‘non-rivalrous’ media, like elevator music or an instrumental pops LP from Value Village? I picture John Cale storming into the living room, ripping that book out of my hands, cranking up the volume — even as he rails about the absence of decent speakers — and commanding me to submit to Each. Damn. Song. In the correct track order. And then going back and doing it all over again.”
Thursday, March 26:
“For a moment I was thinking what an outrage it is that No Doubt’s new single — i.e. the song they are hoping will take on any kind of life in the public sphere — is a cover of Adam & The Ants ‘Stand And Deliver.’ Stop raiding pop’s closet! Then I realized that the entire hit-making period of Adam’s career (eleventh hour comeback “Wonderful” excepted) was stitched together from the more attention-getting elements of other people’s music: Burundi beats (African music, Bo Diddley); Gary Glitter and glam rock; Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. What did Adam bring to the table? Some great cheekbones and a nice torso to hang it all off of, and the fortunate timing of early MTV — without which he might’ve been wiped out after ‘Goody Two Shoes,’ if indeed he’d gotten that far at all.”
Friday, March 27:
“Listening to Long Lost Tapes 1970 by Peter Walker. Don’t really know anything about Walker, although I seem to recall his name either being invoked by, or connected to, Thurston Moore. But Moore is one of us mouth-breathing fan boy types: He likes an awful lot of cool stuff. This CD is very Arthur magazine. Guitar ragas, featuring percussion — both drums and bells — and flutes, etc. I romanticize this as more pure music, not beholden to tight clichés of pop. This CD actually makes me think of a more bucolic Velvet Underground, without vocals. What am I seeking when I delve into this or Six Organs of Admittance or Sir Richard Bishop? I’m hoping to get swept up in the sounds, the timbres, and the ever-circling patterns. I know each piece has a beginning/middle/end, but because they’re not dictated — at least not in a fashion I can easily detect — by conventional rules of harmony, this music feels open and free, which are sensations I crave in my life.”
Saturday, March 28:
“They were listening to KMTT ‘The Mountain’ when I showed up to do my volunteer work yesterday. Selections we heard as we packed meals for clients included: New Order, Madness’ “Our House,” the Rolling Stones, and U2. Twice. ‘Stuck In A Moment’ earlier in the morning, then ‘Desire’ as lunchtime neared. A lot more things that passed through me, eliciting a mildly pleasurable reaction but not really registering. Cowboy Junkies’ version of ‘Sweet Jane’ came on, which A_ decried. I pointed out to him that in the context of the noisy late ’80s, it seemed revolutionary for a song to be so quiet. I did not observe that Lou Reed probably made a boatload of money off it, and I’m happy for him. What else did we hear? ‘Did they play INXS?’ They always play INXS,’ says A_. And he was right: They had.”
Sunday, March 29:
“Still groggy from last night’s birthday party — and the ice cream and bad music videos I ingested when I got home. The Killers’ ‘Spaceman’ clip is atrocious. Very Burning Man. Brandon Flowers’ costume looked suspiciously like the roller derby get-up Toyah Wilcox wears on the sleeve of Love Is The Law, ca. 1983.”
Monday, March 30:
“The universe seems to be doing its damnedest to convince me I’m not as beholden to ’80s pop as I sometimes believe, by regurgitating songs I simply can not stand into the atmosphere. Saturday, Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’ came back to haunt me at the gym, in the form of a crappy dance version. Who wants to listen to that? And twice over the weekend, QFC greeted me with Jessica Simpson struggling through ‘Take My Breath Away,’ the hit that reminded me I was right to hate Berlin in the first place.”
DJ El Toro is the host of the overnight show In Between Sleep & Reason, Wednesday mornings from 1 AM to 6 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column, Weird At My School, appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog.